DENNIS LILLEE AND IAN THORPE ELEVATED TO LEGEND STATUS IN
THE SPORT AUSTRALIA HALL OF FAME
2021 SPORT AUSTRALIA HALL OF FAME AWARDS
Two of Australia’s greatest sportsmen, Dennis Lillee AM MBE and Ian Thorpe AM, have been elevated to Legend status in the nation’s most prestigious sporting club, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame (SAHOF).
Dennis Lillee, regarded as one of the most accomplished and consistently hostile fast bowlers of his time, was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985. Ian Thorpe, the most successful Australian male Olympian in history, with a haul of five gold medals, was inducted into SAHOF in 2008. Today the pair joined 42 other greats as Sport Australia Hall of Fame Legends.
The annual elevation to Legend status within the Sport Australia Hall of Fame is the pinnacle of sporting honours that can be bestowed on an Australian athlete. It is reserved for sporting greats who have distinguished themselves at the absolute highest level and whose achievements are considered part of Australian folklore.
“The recognition of Legend status provides the opportunity to share their extraordinary story and inspire a whole new generation of Australians,” fellow Legend and Sport Australia Hall of Fame Chair, John Bertrand AO, said.
Sport Australia Hall of Fame Members must be retired for 15 years before being considered for elevation to Legend of Australian Sport status. The 44 Legends feature our nation’s biggest sporting names and champions, including Raelene Boyle AM MBE, Evonne Goolagong-Cawley AC MBE, Sir Donald Bradman AC, Dawn Fraser AC MBE, Bart Cummings AM, John Eales AM, Betty Cuthbert AC MBE, Cathy Freeman OAM, Shane Gould OAM MBE, Wally Lewis AM, Rod Laver AC MBE, Ron Barassi AM, Susie O’Neill AM and Greg Norman AO.
Equipped with athletic prowess, a fierce temperament and an untamed primal force, Lillee burst onto the cricket scene at the age of 20 and quickly established himself as a magnificent opening bowler. He was a beacon of inspiration amid triumph and controversy for the nation during the 1970s and 80s.
Lillee terrorised batsmen around the world during an illustrious 13-year career. However, his career was not without its setbacks. He suffered a debilitating back injury in 1973, resulting in a prolonged absence from cricket. Lillee embarked on a comeback and remodelled aspects of his bowling run-up and action to alleviate stress on his body and returned to the game in 1974, spearheading Australia’s bowling attack and picking up where he had left off, continuing to exploit and outwit the world’s best batsmen.
A knee injury forced a premature end to Lillee’s career in 1984. He left international cricket as the leading Test wicket-taker (355), topping the bowler/fielding combination record for dismissals with wicketkeeper Rod Marsh (95) and regarded by many as Australia’s greatest ever fast bowler.
Lillee says he was shocked by his elevation to legendary status, and the accolade would not have been possible without his teammates. “You couldn’t do it without them. We had some great teams during my career, but more than anything, they were all great blokes. They were like family.”
Thorpe launched himself on the world stage in 1998 when he became one of the youngest male swimmers to win a gold medal at a World Championship. He went into the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games with great expectations and delivered three gold and two silver medals in front of his home crowd.
Dubbed “Thorpedo”, he became a national drawcard, with his grace and humility endearing him to spectators who watched him live as well as millions of fans on television as he helped to turn swimming into a prime-time sport.
In nine years of competitive swimming at every distance from 100m to 800m, Thorpe won five Olympic gold medals, nine Commonwealth golds, 13 World Championships, and set 23 world records, making him one of Australia’s most successful athletes of all time.
Thorpe’s work out of the pool gave him a voice on numerous social issues as he used his profile to raise awareness on depression and equality, to name just two. In addition, his philanthropic focus drove him to raise funds for multiple causes, including children’s cancer and indigenous education.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to be part of a group of people who have shaped the Australian sporting and cultural identity around the world,” said Thorpe.
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame will come to life for 2021 in a television special featuring interviews with Lillee and Thorpe, on the Seven Network on Thursday, December 2.
Bruce McAvaney OAM, Hamish McLachlan and Abbey Gelmi will host the special broadcast: Australia’s Sporting Heroes and Legends – a Celebration of the 2021 Sport Australia Hall of Fame. It will feature The Don Award, named in recognition of the Hall of Fame’s inaugural inductee, Sir Donald Bradman. The Don Award is considered the highest honour in Australian sport, awarded to an athlete or team who has most inspired the nation through performance and example over the past year. Who will follow in the footsteps of previous winners including Ash Barty, the Australian Women’s T20 Cricket Team, Catherine Freeman OAM, Jeff Horn, Michelle Payne OAM, Kurt Fearnley AO and Cadel Evans AM, to claim the honour for 2021?
The television broadcast will also mark the inauguration of The Dawn Award, named in honour of Dawn Fraser. The Dawn Award will be presented to a courageous ground-breaker who has demonstrated achievement against the odds and challenged the status quo. The recipient could hail from this generation or the past, and be either an individual, team or an organisation.
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards program is sponsored by Sport Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport, and proudly supported by Sportscover and Victoria University.